Mendelsohn, Erich

Mendelsohn, Erich
   architect; a leading exponent of functionalism. Born to a businessman of Russo-Polish heritage in Allenstein, East Prussia, he studied architecture during 1908-1912. He took his doctorate in 1912 and came under the influence of Expressionism* by attaching himself to Munich's Blaue Reiter group. He enlisted in 1915 and sketched his first visionary designs while serving in the army. Upon opening an office in Berlin,* he helped found the Novembergruppe* in 1919 and organized an exhibition of his drawings. The first of his major buildings was a reinforced-concrete research laboratory in Potsdam: the Einstein Tower (completed in 1921), it is judged the best application of Expressionism to architecture. It also established Mendel-sohn's career.
   Utilizing a commission from the Mosse* publishing house, whose headquar-ters he had redesigned, Mendelsohn financed a 1924 research trip to the United States. Amerika, Bilderbuch eines Architekten (America: Picturebook of an ar-chitect), his 1926 publication in praise of the American metropolis, was one of the most successful architectural publications of the period. After a sojourn in the Soviet Union* he compiled a book of photographs that provided a compar-ative cross-section of design in the United States, Russia, and Europe. Of the several important modern architects of his era, he was the one who best com-bined elegance with strong construction. In 1924, with such luminaries as Walter Gropius,* Bruno Taut,* and Ludwig Mies,* he founded the Ring, an association of the Republic's leading modernist architects.
   The high point of Mendelsohn's work came in 1926-1932. His several build-ings included department stores for Salman Schocken* in Nuremberg, Stuttgart, and Chemnitz. In Berlin he designed the Woga Complex on Kurfürstendamm and the Columbushaus on Potsdamer Platz. Employing horizontal line, his per-sonal style incorporated curved facades with ribbons of long windows.
   Of Jewish ancestry, Mendelsohn typically received his commissions from Jewish firms. Threatened early in 1933 with arrest, he fled to London. During 1936-1941 he resided in Palestine, where his designs included numerous public buildings and the home of Chaim Weizmann, Zionist leader and first Israeli
   President. He moved in 1941 to the United States, where his final years were devoted to designing Jewish community centers.
   REFERENCES:Benz and Graml, Biographisches Lexikon; Eckardt, Eric Mendelsohn; Pehnt, Expressionist Architecture; Dennis Sharp, Modern Architecture and Expression-ism.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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